“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Martin Luther has some advice for people who first want to live a better life before they pray: “If you don’t want to pray before you feel you are worthy or qualified, you’ll never pray. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness. It must be based on the unchanging truth of God’s promise.”

We make resolutions, but they slowly fade. Our faith wavers as we plow through the realities of daily life. Sometimes we approach God’s presence feeling as if we’ve failed far too often or too greatly to sense his welcome. Yet, “We pray because we are unworthy to pray,” writes Luther. “Our prayers are heard precisely because we believe that we are unworthy.”

If prayer is for the unworthy, then who else might it be for? Prayer is for the fearful; prayer is for the helpless; prayer is for those who doubt; prayer is for those at the end of their rope; prayer is for the sinner who cries out, “God be merciful to me.” Listening for the Holy Spirit becomes the great adventure of prayer. We come with hands empty, so that he can fill them. The vital thing is to honor God’s truthfulness and faithfulness, to pray, and to have faith in His promises.

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement